With just a few days to go, you may want to remind yourself of all pros and cons of remaining or leaving the EU based on the environmental equation. Here’s a summary of the top arguments in and out drawn from the opinions that Caroline Lucas MP, Michael Liebreich, Lord Callanan, Professor Paul Ekins OBE well expressed at the Crowd’s Referendum Debate.
CASE FOR REMAIN
Cross-border nature of environmental problems. They don’t queue at borders waiting for their passports to be checked. They are by their very nature cross-border, and therefore need cross-border solutions.
The EU harmonises European policies. It is desirable especially for energy and environment polices of European countries to be harmonised on the European level rather than on the national level.
The EU prevents race to the bottom through offering a vital level fields of minimal environmental legislation across Europe. The EU multiplies British influence, ideas and values.
Keeping control and influence. UK politicians will have a positive influence over the EU rules that will continue to affect Britain regardless if they’re a member of the EU.
The EU is more democratic than UK as it gives weight to European democratic values and legitimate aspirations of the member states for the national sovereignty. Brussels proposes the legislation, which is then discussed in the European Parliament (which is directly elected from all member states) by proportional representation – some see this as more democratic than the UK Parliament.
Sovereignty is best exercised in collaboration with other countries. The EU has more clout on the global stage then the individual member states.
UK interests in energy and environment would be better pursued inside the EU. It’s impossible to imagine that UK would not want to be a part of the single European market. The UK exports 45% into the single market, 2/3rds of which are goods.
Leave campaign doesn’t have a clear picture of what Britain would look like in the case of Brexit. The majority believe it will be similar to those of Norway and Switzerland, which means having access to the market, but in return having to adopt the vast majority of the EU environmental legislation. But they don’t have a say on formulation of the legislation.
Climate change is the biggest threat the humanity faces. The best minds and technology are needed as fast as possible to tackle the catastrophe. By working inside the EU, humanity has a better chance of responding quickly.
CASE FOR LEAVE
Not all good environmental things come from the EU. For instance, since Kyoto protocol, the US has made faster progress in phasing out coal than the EU. Or for the past 17 years, emissions from the energy sector in Germany have not budged.
Some of the most important environmental legislations are driven by the UK. This includes peat care, establishing the marine reserve, the carbon floor price, and the decision to phase out coal by 2020. The EU’s ETC don’t work.
Look at deeds not words. Investment in clean energy in the EU is half of what China is investing in clean energy today.
The EU only talks about leading on the environment, but is not leading. The EU response to the VW emissions scandal was to double the Nitrogen Oxide emission cap for diesel cars. This is not the response of a block that is leading on the environment.
Europe lacks an understanding of environmental innovation. The environmental problems can only be solved through innovation. Much of the UK’s tech innovation research is outsourced to the EU, and most of the Horizon 2020 budget is spent on socio-economic rather than environmental projects.
The EU takes the environmental debate out of Westminster. The existence of Europe means a lot of environmental lobbing is focused on Brussels rather than Westminster, which takes debate and education out of the UK. When policies then arrive from Brussels, they are then seen to be imposed by the mother ship – without being socialised first. That can make them unpopular.
The EU is slow to reform and lacks flexibility. It didn't reform when UK threatened to leave. What makes one think it will reform if Britain stays?
The society has every technology we need to solve climate change. Challenge is rather socio-cultural and political.
There is no need to become a part of a superstrate in order to take actions on environment and energy. Collaboration can continue without being member of the club.
Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd.